The League Cup final – important again? Man City vs Tottenham has some meaning after ESL debacle
Manchester City and Tottenham announced their European Super League intentions a week before their League Cup final meeting at Wembley. Now the clubs have backtracked from those proposals, Pep Guardiola and Ryan Mason will be hopeful their players can focus solely on the task at hand: winning silverware.
The Wembley final therefore re-emerges as a spectacle no longer between two ESL sides, and with no lingering doubt that these clubs may – but we’ll never truly know – not even have played this competition next season.
So let’s start with Spurs. Oh, for a fly-on-the-wall documentary of their past week (remember Dulux-gate? That was only last week...). The Amazon cameras caught Jose Mourinho’s arrival last season, but they were not there for his downfall. It turned out to be closer to Nothing, than All, and he was denied the chance of lifting the League Cup for a fifth time when dismissed on Monday.
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Deemed a cup final mastermind, the timing of Mourinho’s sacking – just six days before the meeting with City – was undoubtedly surprising, even if it felt inevitable he would soon leave the club.
Levy may well have thought League Cup victory with Mourinho would have strengthened the head coach’s standing, a reason to therefore sack him now and avoid getting rid of potentially the first manager since Juande Ramos to win Spurs a trophy somewhere further down the line.
Instead, it’s Ryan Mason, who as interim head coach, could become a 29-year-old winner of the League Cup.
Tottenham Hotspur's Interim Head Coach Ryan Mason shouts instructions to his players from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on April 21, 2021.
Image credit: Getty Images
Against City, against Pep Guardiola, it feels like somewhat of a free shot. Any preparations before this week may well have gone out the window, and Mason will hope the good feeling garnered from Wednesday’s win over Southampton, as well as the presence of some fans at Wembley, can get them over the line.
Spurs enjoyed a 2-0 home win over City in the Premier League back in November, and while Guardiola’s side have turned the screw since, winning the February league meeting at the Etihad 3-0, there are no guarantees this will be a walkover – particularly as there is a strong Spurs contingent remaining from their Champions League heroics against City two years ago.
For City, Sunday is about taking their first step towards a treble of sorts. Not the treble, but having exited the FA Cup last weekend they will not want another piece of silverware to pass them by. If the quadruple pursuit turns into winning “just” the Premier League, then we could be looking elsewhere for clubs who have ended the season the stronger – mainly Chelsea, who remain in FA Cup and Champions League contention.
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City do not need the League Cup, but they certainly love to win it. This would be their fourth straight triumph, and though the final is arriving later than normal – having been pushed back a couple of months – it serves as a reminder as to why Guardiola always wants to progress far in this tournament.
A winning run in any competition can only be beneficial for morale, and when you can boast a squad of City’s size, then it is no surprise to see they’ve dominated this cup of late.
They will be heavy favourites on Sunday, but you cannot count Spurs out. Suddenly, now the European Super League gloom has lifted, we have a match to look forward to.